No, I am not “anti-American“, just to get that straight. Instead, as regular readers of The Hannibal Blog will know, I am a lover of freedom and individualist, and thus nominally aligned with America’s putative founding philosophy. And I am in the rare (although not that rare, nowadays) position of being simultaneously an insider (citizen) and outsider (dual citizen, long-time expatriate).
Hence my idea, half-baked at this point, to weave yet another thread into The Hannibal Blog. (None of the existing threads will be interrupted.)
In short: vignettes of American life, told from the perspective of an outsider on the inside. And yes, it would amount to a critique. But an educated, insightful, informed and witty critique, not the usual, frothy nonsense that you get from America-haters.
The basis of my idea is the this unholy symmetry:
- America-haters around the world usually don’t know much about America and so end up sounding ridiculous to those of us who do.
- America-lovers inside of America usually don’t know much about the rest of the world and so end up sounding ridiculous to those of us who do.
So, get ready. This will, in time, draw a new crowd of internet trolls eager to smear their graffiti into the comments during the commerical breaks on Fox or Al Jazeera. To the hard-core readers among you, I say: Steel yourself! You already know that the critique will, above all, not contain the old clichés.
5 thoughts on “A freedom-lover’s critique of America”
When you say “threads”, do you mean “topics”?
Yes, “topics”. Let me elaborate in a quick post….
According to Merriam Webster a critic is one who expresses a reasoned opinion on any matter especially involving a judgment of its value, truth, righteousness, beauty, or technique. I believe that freedom loving people should welcome genuine criticism and analysis. Especially Americans. And where reasoned, no one should apologize for their views. Such views should be welcomed as critical to the notion of change and progress.
I would add, however, that while asymmetric to the unholy symmetry you have observed, some of us who love America for what she represents in name and the good she had done, can also roundly criticize her where indicated. Moreover, many of us do know a bit about history and the rest of the world-the notion that all Americans are egocentric in their understanding of the world and its inhabitants would be an overstatement. The Founding Fathers were pretty well-read…Hamilton, a student of history even referenced the experience of Sparta, Athens, Rome and, yes, Carthage in commenting on the forms that government might take. He understood the importance of examining history and using what works and avoiding what doesn’t.
In Federalist No. 6 Hamilton stated:
Sparta, Athens, Rome, and Carthage were all republics; two of them, Athens and Carthage, of the commercial kind. Yet were they as often engaged in wars, offensive and defensive, as the neighboring monarchies of the same times. Sparta was little better than a wellregulated camp; and Rome was never sated of carnage and conquest.
Carthage, though a commercial republic, was the aggressor in the very war that ended in her destruction. Hannibal had carried her arms into the heart of Italy and to the gates of Rome, before Scipio, in turn, gave him an overthrow in the territories of Carthage, and made a conquest of the commonwealth.
I am curious about what you mean when you refer to America’s putative founding philosophy. Are you saying that the ideas, ideals and debates that gave rise to the Constitution, three branches of government, etc…were things we just assume to have been important to the founders, or otherwise accept without a sufficient foundation in fact?
Back to your point-I agree that we can benefit from criticism that is based in fact, with a progress report on how we are doing as America, in light of the founding principles, and identification of ways we can stay on course, or, um get back on course in some areas–critique that comes from thinking people who understand history, the complexities of the so-called American Experiment, and nuances of the American people. After all, a country that goes unexamined isn’t worth living in. I submit that fair and honest criticism or critique is motivating…
It’s like my doctor said to me today, your blood work looks good, you seem to be in good shape for a 56 year father of four. Keep up the exercise, need to bring the cholesterol down a bit, and by the way, you could do well to lose a little weight… (understatement). It was a fair critique-I can’t rest on my laurels, I need to lose some weight. It motivated me because he wasn’t an ideolog about it; and it was based on fact.
America can’t rest on its laurels, needs to lose some weight and can do better. But let’s give us Americans a little credit where credit is due. With the above qualification, bring forth the critique, Sir, I am steeled….
Points taken, Steve, and once again, I say: blessed are those who have sophisticated readers.
Oh, how I long for those founding fathers. Wouldst that they were still among us! (Not least because they would looove my coming book, and would make it a bestseller.)
A funny thing happened on the way from the Constitutional Convention, though: Ask some people in your local mall about Hamilton’s same-said views on Hannibal, and they are likely to make…. yucky sucking sounds. Hannibal, you see, as in Lecter.
The lofty and the vulgar, the sublime and the banal: forever they coexist. And so also in America.
Now that you are steeled, prepare for surprises, though. I don’t intend to feed you critiques about America’s standing in the world (those have been done, and done well), but vignettes from daily life in a bizarre place that appears normal to its inhabitants only due to long habituation…..
I am sufficiently provoked, steeled and really look forward to this thread. Your teaser alone is thought-provoking and might have hit the problem we have here in the states right on the head, like Pyrrhic getting hit on the head with that roofing tile!!
I don’t know how sophisticated I am, but I yearn to be provoked to thought and am starting to feel like we should be paying tuition, my Liege.
(As against the risk that any readers might think I am kissing butts here, I remain a bit rigid in my view that the US, on balance, has truly served as the Fire horse to the Fire bell when the modern world has sounded the alarm, especially Europe. I suspect that many Europeans feel the same way although have a difficult time with us when we do things thought to be “out of character” –like a family member just being disappointed in us.)
I will stop with this passive aggressive thought-very American, don’t you think…?